Home » Employee Wellbeing » Why early intervention is crucial to supporting wellbeing in the workplace

Tracey Paxton

Managing Director, The Employee Resilience Company

The mental health of employees has been put under strain by issues such as the pandemic, financial uncertainty and global unrest. Quick and decisive support must be available if a colleague is struggling.

In the last few years there has been a huge increase in employee stress, depression and anxiety. But that’s not really surprising says Tracey Paxton, an expert on mental wellbeing in the workplace.

“COVID-19, the impact of national lockdowns and changes to everyday work and social life were a reminder of just how important it is for all of us to develop resilience regarding our mental wellbeing,” she says. “We’d never experienced anything like the pandemic before, the speed with which it arrived took everyone by surprise. It was an event which tested our individual and collective resilience as well as our ability to deal with setbacks. Everyone — employer, employee and their families— was touched by it in some way.”

A mental wellbeing wake-up call for businesses

The Employee Resilience Company is the specialist mental health arm of BHSF, the not-for-profit health and wellbeing provider. As Managing Director of The Employee Resilience Company, Paxton manages the psychological services offered by not-for-profit health and wellbeing provider, BHSF. “During the pandemic we saw a massive increase in the demand for our services,” she says.

“Staff from lots of different organisations told us they were anxious about the outbreak. They were also experiencing feelings of loneliness caused by self-isolation and social distancing and struggling to adjust to new remote working routines.

“Many employees said they were under pressure juggling high workloads with caring responsibilities and felt burnt out. They were also worried about their job security and economic future. Then, sadly, by the time of the second lockdown, we were supporting them with bereavement and grief issues.”

Leaders and managers must have proper awareness training to spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health in staff.

Paxton believes that this should be a mental wellbeing wake-up call for all businesses. “There are people in workforces up and down the country who are trying to deal with mental wellbeing issues themselves, rather than reaching out for help,” she says.

“If that continues, they may struggle to function. They can go into what we call ‘survival mode’, the effects of which can manifest in absenteeism (being away from work completely) and presenteeism (physically being at work but unable to perform properly). Unlike absenteeism, presenteeism can be hard to quantify; but it can have a negative impact on a business because other staff have to pick up the slack, which can lead to a domino effect.”

The critical importance of early intervention

The key for any organisation is to provide early, fast-track support for staff who are struggling with their mental wellbeing. “To do this effectively, leaders and managers must have proper awareness training to spot the early signs and symptoms of mental ill health in staff, whether they are in the office or working remotely,” says Paxton.

“Then they need to know how and where to access the right support for the right person at the right time. The sooner these interventions occur, the better the outcomes will be.”

Managers also need to be trained to initiate difficult conversations around mental health; and — crucially — support needs to be available to those who are supporting others. This is, after all, an issue that can affect everyone. Plus, a positive workplace culture needs to develop so that any member of staff feels able to flag up any wellbeing issues they are experiencing, as early as possible.

Ultimately, mental health support shouldn’t be an ‘add on’ or a ‘nice to have’. It should be an essential and integral part of every organisation. Thankfully, Paxton thinks this message is getting through. “The pandemic has at least shone a light on workplace cultures and mental health,” she says.

“Employers are realising that they need to take their staff’s mental health much more seriously than they did in the past. Yes, businesses will need to set aside a budget to support mental wellbeing; but if they do so they will save money in the longer term.”

BHSF is a not-for-profit health and wellbeing provider with a proud history of making quality healthcare accessible to working people across the UK.

BHSF services include employee mental health support, occupational health, employee wellbeing and health insurance products.

Find out how we can help you make a positive impact on workplace wellbeing by connecting employees to fast, effective, and quality mental health support: www.bhsf.co.uk/workplace-wellbeing 

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